Bronco, Palms, Clamp, 2-Read, Kathy, Rolex, Trap; the terminology doesn’t matter. Nate Sudfeld got bamboozled, hoodwinked, flimflammed by the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense. Consider it a learning experience for the 24-year old quarterback.
In their first drive of Week 1 preseason action, the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles faced 3rd & 6 from their own 39-yard line. Pre-snap, Sudfeld may think the Steelers are in Cover 4 coverage, which out routes are very effective against, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case. This down and distance is custom fit for the Steelers’ coverage. From Breakdown Sports, the good and the bad of the 2-Read coverage the Steelers’ utilized:
“Strengths: Jumps outward routes from #2, which is a common quarters beater. Helps prevent underneath zones from being overwhelmed by having the CB jump #2. Plays like Cover 2 against shorter route concepts, but still has Cover 4 adaptability against verticals.
Weakness: The safety has to get outside over top #1 in the event that #2 runs an out route (pole concept). Cover 2 beaters can be effective (smash, pole, post-wheel).”
Here’s how the coverage matches up before the snap.
For the Steelers, the read side is going to be away from the tight end. In this case, the read side is the “field side”, the side of the field opposite the hash the ball is snapped.
The outside cornerback, veteran Coty Sensabaugh is going to initially carry the vertical route from Mack Hollins, but he’s reading through the #2 wide receiver Greg Ward Jr. the entire time. If Ward snaps his route off to the outside, Sensabaugh is jumping all over it. If Ward stays vertical, Sensabaugh will stay on Hollins.
As for the other assignments, the nickel cornerback Mike Hilton is responsible for the flats, but first he’s going to carry Ward’s vertical push and wall him off from the outside. This will aid the safety Morgan Burnett in picking him up. Burnett has either the vertical from Hollins or Ward. If Ward snaps outside, he knows Senabaugh will sink underneath and he has to race to pick up Hollins along the sideline.
Hollins runs the go route, Ward runs the out, and there’s Sensabaugh waiting just past the sticks for an interception. Sudfeld hits his third step, hitches up, and is probably screaming in his own head as the throw comes out of his hand.
It’s nothing to overreact about; Sudfeld had an up-and-down night and that’s to be expected for a young quarterback seeing his first live action of the year. He’s certainly not the first quarterback to fall for this trap and certainly won’t be the last. It will be a good coaching point for Sudfeld to learn from in the meeting rooms. If he shows the ability to diagnose this coverage the next time he encounters it, you’ll know he’s on the right path.